March 4, 2024

Hair Alchemy

earrings FOPE

dress and belt ALAÏA
earrings DIOR


dress FENDI

earrings FOPE

dress FENDI

full look GAURAV GUPTA

earrings FOPE

The world of a hair wizard, an intimate conversation with Ilham Mestour

In a realm where success in hairstyling is often a privilege reserved for the few, particularly for women in a predominantly male-dominated field, Ilham Mestour stands as a remarkable exception.  Her creative style, akin to witnessing a sculptor unveiling the potential within a block of marble, reflects an extraordinary artistic prowess.

We had the distinct honor of featuring Ilham in our inaugural issue.  To observe her at work is like watching an artist bring life to their canvas. In the enchanting world of hairstyling, Moroccan-born Ilham Mestour emerges as a luminary whose journey began in 1997 in a quaint Amsterdam salon.  Today, she is one of the most coveted hairstylists, transforming locks into masterpieces for iconic figures such as Naomi Campbell, Doutzen Kroes, Imaan Hammam, and showcasing her talent by having her works featured in the leading publications across the fashion industry.

Ilham is not merely a hairstylist; she is a true artist, reshaping the landscape of an industry with each movement of her creative brilliance.

Ilham Mestour by Tim Verhallen

Working together, your creative process is really impressive.  What inspires you the most when creating your works of art, considering that none of your references for inspiration in this editorial were from the hairstyling world?

It all started with my love for hair.   Along the way, I ventured into fashion.  Nature, art, and different cultures – they all add depth and meaning to my work.  My work isn’t just about hair; it’s about blending beauty and deeper meaning.”

In a field predominantly occupied by men, you’ve risen to the top as one of the few women in powerful positions.  What contributes to this gender gap, and why is it challenging to see more women in the hairstyling industry?

The industry still leans towards men, reflecting wider societal patterns.  Changing this means reshaping education and leadership opportunities.  Empowering women through education and representation can pave the way for more balanced leadership in hairstyling.”

From Naomi to Kate to Lara, you’ve styled some of the biggest names.  Who is a muse you haven’t had the pleasure of styling yet but would love to?

I’d love to style Tilda Swinton.  She’s got this amazing ability to transform, making her a perfect canvas for exploring bold and artistic hairstyling.”

Could you share insights into your relationship with Balmain and the creative process with Olivier for fashion shows or campaigns?

Collaborating with Balmain and Olivier is like a creative brainstorm during the fittings of his show.  It’s all about trust, flowing with ideas, and blending our visions into something really special.”

Reflecting on your career, what mistakes did you make early on that, given the chance, you would avoid?

Looking back, I’d advise my younger self to trust my instincts more.  Authentic creativity comes from a place of confidence and inner belief.”

In an ever-evolving industry, how do you stay updated on the latest trends and techniques, and do you have any favourite sources of inspiration? 

Staying ahead means constant learning and adapting.  Yet, the need for our hands-on craftsmanship remains, a reminder of the human touch’s irreplaceable value.”

As a mentor or inspiration to aspiring hairstylists, what key advice would you give to someone starting their career in hairstyling?

Hone your skills, immerse yourself in art and culture.  Be patient and passionate.  Keep it real, keep learning, and don’t be afraid to be you.  Your unique vision is your greatest asset.” 

How do you approach the collaborative process with other creatives, such as makeup artists and fashion stylists, to ensure a cohesive overall look for your projects? 

When working with makeup artists and fashion stylists, it’s all about creating a story together.  The value of our craftsmanship makes these collaborations vital in fashion.”

Hairstyling often involves experimentation.  Can you share a unique or unconventional technique you’ve developed or discovered that sets your work apart? 

Ultimately, this collection is a tribute to the art of transformation – a celebration of creativity, artistry, and the endless possibilities that arise when crossing the boundaries of traditional disciplines.”

What lies ahead in Ilham’s future?

Looking ahead, I’m excited about integrating new tech while being eco-friendly. Balancing personal values with industry demands remains a guiding principle for me. The journey continues, marked by a commitment to innovation, creativity, and the enduring beauty of the human touch in hairstyling.”

Ilham Mestour by Tim Verhallen


photographer TIM VERHALLEN

fashion editor PABLO PATANE



makeup artist JIMMY STAM



casting director MANON SASSY

production B AGENCY

hair assistants NICOLE POEDE

hair products BALMAIN HAIR